What to buy a travelling friend, when they are a traveller
January 19, 2014 4:48 PM   Subscribe

A work colleague and all-round good bud of mine is leaving the country (Australia) to do some travelling before returning home to England (Liverpool). There are a lot of things I'd love to buy her as a farewell present, but as she is backpacking for a few months through various places I am limited on my selection of physical gifts to buy her. Help me think of/make something awesome for her!

Things she will be doing whilst backpacking are:

- Visiting the East Coast of Australia (I'm giving her lots of local knowledge there anyway)
- Spending quite some time in South America for the FIFA World Cup (but I know she has a lot of guide books etc on the area)
- Hopping between New Zealand/America briefly (she has travelled here before)

She is an avid and talented drawer but won't be able to carry much/if anything while backpacking, and she is taking an old film camera with her and I know she is already stocked up on Kindle books and notebooks for writing. I'd love to make her something useful but thoughtful but lack a creative mind to think of something, and getting her the standard funky bag tag/travel pillow/etc is a bit lame. I will be visiting her in the UK later in the year so plan to bring larger material items there to give to her.

Expand my mind!
posted by sunshine arakhan to Grab Bag (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you're visiting her this year, I'd give her a gift certificate or an IOU for some activity (a nice dinner out, theater tickets, etc.) for the two of you to do together then. Someone who is traveling a lot, especially if she's going on a budget, she'll appreciate that more than anything she has to carry or dispose of while she's away.
posted by decathecting at 5:01 PM on January 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

A gift card for a massage or a nice local restaurant in one of the cities she'll be passing through.
posted by headnsouth at 5:09 PM on January 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

How about a necklace or a bracelet? I never use one in my day to day life, but when I travel, I like having a small change purse/pouch - so maybe one of those?
posted by backwards guitar at 5:09 PM on January 19, 2014

Nthing to give an experience instead of a physical object. If you want to relate it to her upcoming travels, buy her some sort of tickets or tour package or something in one of the places she's going.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:10 PM on January 19, 2014

Just off the top of my head:

a pair or two of expensive high quality hiking socks
a swiss army knife or some kind of multi-tool
a night in a nice hotel in one of the areas she'll be visiting
a whistle on a chain
posted by Locochona at 5:13 PM on January 19, 2014

You could try one of the Crumpled City maps? It is a thing, but they mush down to almost nothing, and are waterproof and rip-proof as well.
posted by Athanassiel at 5:22 PM on January 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

Y'know what would be amazing, but maybe more than you want to spend? A gift card for a fancy shmancy international hotel chain. Either for a one night stay, or for a visit to the spa. Most people who go on long backpacking trips like to give themselves a treat every once in a while by staying in somewhere nicer, and she'd probably really love to be able to do that on someone else's dime :)

(Also, getting a massage when you've been roughing it feels like the best thing in the whole world. )
posted by Kololo at 5:29 PM on January 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Backpacking stuff:

A portable battery pack, like this, for smartphone/Kindle charging on the go. Also has a torch built in, which is useful.

nthing a multitool (Leathermans are the best, maybe even one of the smaller ones).

Small LED torch.

Sewing kit - Patagonia's expedition kit looks pretty awesome.

Fancy travel passport case/wallet - Bellroy makes a lovely one.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:41 PM on January 19, 2014

What about toiletries? Sunscreen, soap, etc. in single use packets that are lightweight and spillproof can make travel much more pleasant.
posted by snickerdoodle at 6:21 PM on January 19, 2014

Can you specify a budget range? A hotel spa voucher costs a lot more than a luggage tag.
posted by jojobobo at 8:13 PM on January 19, 2014

Just to answer jojobo's question - I don't have the budget for a spa voucher unfortunately, and was only thinking something small as we will be spending time together later in the year- AUD$50 and under. As she is a traveller living here a lot of the travel knick-knacks etc are already catered for.
posted by sunshine arakhan at 8:20 PM on January 19, 2014

Hmm. If she already has the travel knick knacks, and you know you shouldn't get her more 'stuff' to carry around, what about an itunes gift card, so that she can load up her devices with music or movies? Or how see about paying for some kind of airline upgrade - like, access to the first class lounges if one of her flights has a long layover, or maybe an airline gift card that can be applied toward food or alcohol on the plane? Could she use a phrasebook?

You might also want to consider giving her a gift that she'll enjoy BEFORE she goes away?
posted by Kololo at 9:02 PM on January 19, 2014

Cash for one of the countries she's visiting. An airline lounge pass is a great idea.
Maybe avoid anything that she has to carry around, unless she specifically mentions it.
posted by Snazzy67 at 9:25 PM on January 19, 2014

A farewell gift that I remember fondly was just a ziplock bag with some cute (machine washable) underpants, a couple of crazy strong safety pins, cable ties and a spool of elastic. Throw in a tiny roll of duct tape and a self addressed envelope. I used all of these things during my trip and thought fondly of my friends!

Australian specific treats to include would be a couple of individually wrapped Tim Tams, Bonds undies and a zip drive or SD card of Australian music. Oh, and some of that papaya cream in the red tubes and a tiny jar of eucalyptus or tea tree oil will complete a first aid kit and be reminiscent of Australia without sacrificing much room.

Also, offer to transport any slightly larger items that she might be struggling to post / pack for the backpacking trip.
posted by pipstar at 2:00 AM on January 20, 2014

Definitely offer to transport stuff for her when you visit later in the year! As a Canadian returning home from living in Australia, I would have loved that a lot.

Since she draws, maybe some nice pencils/pens/markers? That would be fairly portable, and something she could use along the way.

Australian sunscreen is higher quality than what you get in many other places. A travel-size container, or a few, could be handy.

A travel alarm clock is a less-common but still handy travel knick knack. It's good to have a backup in case of phone problems (hello low battery power, will I make my flight tomorrow morning??) or when it's preferable to pack the phone away or turn it off, but you still need an alarm.
posted by snorkmaiden at 8:50 AM on January 20, 2014

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